Spencer Williams

Active - 1928 - 1985  |   Born - Jul 14, 1893   |   Died - Dec 13, 1969   |   Genres - Drama, Comedy, Western, Musical, Horror

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Biography by Hal Erickson

Burly African-American actor/director Spencer Williams Jr. enjoyed a long stage career before entering films in the early '30s. Though he occasionally appeared in mainstream Hollywood products (The Virginia Judge and The Nitwits, both 1935), Williams' cinematic energies manifested themselves in the inexpensive all-black films designed for "colored-only" theatres of the era. Williams directed several of these specialized productions, usually reserving for himself a plum role as a villain or comedy relief. He was associated with many of the more famous black-oriented productions of the '30s and '40s, including Bronze Buckaroo, Harlem on the Prairie, Blood of Jesus, Dirty Girtie from Harlem USA (a remake of Somerset Maugham's Rain!) and Juke Joint. Popular among black film patrons, Williams was all but unknown to white audiences; thus it was that Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll were able to claim they "discovered" Williams when casting the TV version of their popular radio series Amos 'N' Andy. Williams portrayed the indigent, amorous Andrew H. Brown in 78 half-hour episodes produced between 1951 and 1953. While his interpretation of Andy was easygoing and gregarious, Williams clashed frequently with Gosden and Correll during production of Amos 'N' Andy, especially when the producers would give him a minstrel-show line reading. Nearly sixty when he took on Amos N Andy, Spencer Williams Jr. retired shortly after the series' cancellation; he died of a kidney ailment at the age of 76.

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